More than two full days after mudslides ravaged this coastal town, the search for the missing became an increasingly desperate exercise Thursday, with growing doubts about whether anyone would be found alive. Santa Barbara County spokeswoman Amber Anderson told reporters some 1,250 emergency workers were at work Friday, slogging through soupy mud and uncertain footing to search for anyone who is trapped.
Highway 101 will remain closed indefinitely and more rain is expected to hit the Santa Barbara area next week, said CHP Capt. Cindy Pontes.
The streets of Montecito in Santa Barbara country in California resemble a battlefield, choked with mud, downed trees, snapped utility poles, crumpled cars and crushed houses.
Theirs are among the many stories of those who perished and those who managed with inexplicable good fortune to escape the slides in the wealthy enclave of Montecito that is home to a variety of people ranging from captains of industry to those who manicured their lawns.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown and Cal Fire updated the status of the recovery effort in an afternoon news conference.
MONTECITO The oldest victim swept away in a California mudslide was Jim Mitchell, who had celebrated his 89th birthday the day before.
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"They're an adorable couple, and they were in love with their house", their daughter, Kelly Weimer, said Wednesday before learning they had died. Brown apologized for the inconvenience, but he called the area "a very active rescue and recovery and fix zone right now".
Members of the crew are expecting to work 12- to 24-hour shifts, just like they did in the Thomas Fire.
Billy Grokenberger lives in a part of Montecito that was under a voluntary evacuation order.
Now, three days in to a mandatory evacuation order they chose to ignore, the Shaws said they're determined to ride out what could be a multi-week closure.
"We had thought about leaving, but we had just had the fires", he said, referring to the recent wildfires that stripped the area of needed vegetation. "I think they didn't take it seriously and had no idea the intensity of the storm". "It is with heavy hearts we share that our dear friend and partner, Rebecca Riskin, has passed away as a result of the tragic flooding and mudslides in Montecito", the company wrote in a Facebook post.
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"Load up the auto, get the dogs, we're out of here", the 58-year-old shopping center developer says he told his wife.
The Thomas Fire, which is technically still burning, is the largest wildfire in California's history since detailed record-keeping began in the 1930s. It wasn't fully contained until this week. They finally eroded into deadly mudslides that struck the community unawares.
The sheriff's office listed the names of the missing, who range in age from two to 62, in a statement on Friday night.
"(But) no storm brings down everything that is susceptible.
"He said so many times that after his passing, 'Make sure everyone prays for my soul.' We will, Roy!"
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